Recently, someone asked me to describe the process of acquiring knowledge. Now that I am home, having returned after nine months, every other person who knows me, comes home to ask me about America and her ways. Of all the questions, this one was least expected. I said a few words only to realize that I was saying nothing about the process. From the very beginning of our childhood, the moment we learn to read and write, we are told, every now and then, to study. But the question is “How should one Study ? “. I mean, reading and memorizing is one thing. The dictionary lists the meaning of the word “Study” (noun) as “the devotion of time and attention to gaining knowledge of an academic subject, especially by means of books”.
I think ,more often than not.we relate learning to memorization. We memorize facts and figures, reflect them in our exam papers. Everything is directly proportional to our ability of memorization and reflection. I leave the discussion on these to another day. But do we acquire knowledge by reading books ? I asked myself this question in the morning. I know how to solve various math problems for this is what I do. I have been reading books, which appear to be nothing more than just a book of symbols to many, all my life. Does that make me knowledgeable? I don’t know to be very honest.
Returning to the question of acquiring knowledge, I didn’t have an answer but Swami Vivekananda has. He says that “There is only one method, by which to attain knowledge, that which is called concentration. The very essence of education is concentration of mind. From the lowest man to the highest yogi, all have to use the same method to attain knowledge. The chemist who works in his laboratory concentrates all the powers of his mind, brings them into one focus, and throws them on the elements; the elements stand analysed, and thus his knowledge comes. The astronomer concentrates the powers of his mind and brings them into one focus; and he throws them on to objects through his telescope; and stars and systems roll forward and give up their secrets to him. The more the power of concentration, the greater the knowledge that is acquired. This is the one call, the one knock, which opens the gates of nature, and lets out floods of light. The world is ready to give up its secrets if we only know how to knock, how to give the necessary blow. The strength and force of the blow come through concentration. “
One might ask, how does this work? How can concentration give everything? Swami Vivekananda says that “Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man” . The whole universe rests within each individual. We are not aware of it. The yogis spend years meditating within for this awareness. The focused energy in a particular direction, makes us aware of a tiny fraction of ourself. You will now say “How to Concentrate?”. Don’t expect me to give you everything. Ask yourself.